romance

matchmaker market

Springtime is upon us and love is in the air, especially alongside West Beijing Road where an open-air matchmaker market has sprung up.

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Hopefuls compile short biographies about themselves (date of birth, job, height, etc.) and a list of what they’re looking for in a mate. Then the info is printed onto signs, pink for women and blue for men, and hung like laundry out to dry. Find someone you like? Leave your phone number on the placard.

Interestingly enough, most of the attendees to the markets are parents with thick journals, copying down phone numbers and bios for their daughters and sons. A friend even suggested to me that many of the bios are actually written by parents—which explains why some of them require a potential mate to be respectful to their own parents. Who wants a daughter- or son-in-law that isnt’?

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About 90% of the female signs say that they want a mate who has his own apartment or house. Unfortunately, Nanjing is pretty notorious for expensive apartments, leading to a lack of individuals who actually own one. The apartment system is pretty interesting; people don’t really rent apartments, instead they buy them. But you don’t really ‘own’ the apartment after you buy it, so you can’t leave it to your children in a will. This is done—supposedly–because of the high population in China; everyone gets a fair chance at an apartment instead of them being left in one family through generations.

The male signs with the most phone numbers—like this one below—are written by men who have their own living accommodations and work for the government, earning a nice steady paycheck.

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This sign says that he’s looking for someone who was born in the year of the rabbit, but tigers are okay too.

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Another good way to get phone numbers is to be a lone foreign girl, presumably perusing the signs looking for love.

Woman: Hey! Hey, what are you looking for?
Me: What?
Woman: What kind of man are you looking for?
Me: Er, no, I have a boyfriend, he’s standing over there–
Woman: Then do you have a cousin? Or a sister in Nanjing?
Me: I… need to go…

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Have another intriguing discussion said behind my back at the matchmaker market:

Man: Hey, why do foreign girls have such a nice curvy-cut figure?
Another man: Don’t you know? It’s because their diet is different from Chinese girls. The foreigners eat raw beef.

I don’t eat raw beef, just for the record.

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an outsider’s thoughts on sex-ed and such in China

Thought #1: You know that you’ve lived in China for a few months when you get on a public bus and all of the adverts are for abortions and you don’t even blink.

This one advertises them for about 300 yuan, or, say, $50 US abouts. The commercials on the TV have green hills and girls dancing in white skirts. I thought they were for laundry detergent until I saw the hospital name.

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Thought #2: Birth control pills are available in China over the counter for about $3 for a monthly pack, compared to the needed prescription and outrageous prices in most western nations. (I’m looking at you, America.) However, most people here don’t know too much about how the pills work—a friend who’d never seen the pills even suggesting to me that you don’t really need to take a pill every day, just the days that you plan to have intercourse. (And yes, the instructions in the box are written in Chinese.) And those people that do know about the pills believe they mess with your body’s natural chemistry and energy too much to take them. So birth control pills are not a big ticket item; there’s actually only ever about two or three brands to even choose from at the pharmacy. Culturally, the pill just isn’t big in China. It’s easily available and affordable, but the idea of messing with the natural order of a woman’s body is unappealing to many.

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Thought #3: Sex-ed in the classroom was explained to me by a friend as a chapter in a biology book Chinese high school students read for class, the teacher asking the next day if there were any questions, no one being brave enough to raise a hand, and on to the next chapter. Parent’s don’t typically broach the subject either. Some simple math for you: Lack of sex ed + wariness of birth control pills + cheap abortions = a high amount of abortions in China.

Thought #4: The one-child rule is pretty heavily enforced. Unless… you live in the countryside where nothing is really enforced, have twins, have an additional child overseas, pay the hefty fine, or get divorced and have another child with your new spouse. Or find some other loophole, of course.

Thought #5: Just a random, interesting note: It’s illegal in China for a doctor to tell the expecting parents the gender of their unborn child. According to my friends, a lot of the younger generation don’t hope for a girl or a boy one way or the other, though. Kids are doted upon by their parents—and grandparents—which sometimes can backfire and turn them into ‘Little Emperors’ or stressed out students burdened with the thought that they’re the only one around to support their parents when they retire.

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